How to Answer: ‘What motivates you at work?’


If you’ve read our previous blog post ‘The Top 10 Interview Questions You Should ALWAYS Prepare For!’ you’ll have seen that one of the questions you should prepare to answer is ‘What motivates you?’ This is a question that throws off many candidates because it’s quite broad and can be very easy to misinterpret. Because of this, Prestige Recruitment Group have decided to decipher this headache-inducing question and break it down into an easy and answerable subject.   

So, let’s decode the question. Firstly, it’s important to note that the question is not asking you ‘What are your motivations for applying for the job?’ and ‘What are your career goals and aspirations?’

The question is actually asking what gets you out of bed in the morning, what makes you want to go to work?

Your interviewer wants to know what makes you tick, what you enjoy doing and what you value at work. They want to see how you would fit into their business.

The first questions you should ask yourself when preparing to answer this question is:

  • What do you enjoy doing? What did you enjoy at school/college/university? What have you enjoyed doing while working at part-time jobs or internships?
  • When you got home feeling like you’d had a good day – what kind of tasks projects had you tackled? 
  • What sort of tasks are you best at? In what sort of environments do you work best?
  • Do you work better in a team or by yourself?

Once you have a bit more of an idea about what it is that does make you happy to go to work, the best way to answer this question is to be honest. As well as this, you should also connect to the vacancy you are going for by suggesting that you would be suited to the role because of what motivates you.

Whatever you say about motivation, you need to back it up with examples. Here’s an overview of types of experience that you may find motivating:

  • meeting deadlines, targets or goals
  • mentoring or coaching others
  • learning new things
  • coming up with creative ideas that are innovative and fresh
  • analysing complex data to make it simple and understandable
  • leading a team to success
  • being in a team
  • completing a difficult project because of the pride you feel after
  • being able to physically see a project come to life
  • solving problems

Whatever answer you pick, it’s absolutely vital that you make sure you choose an answer that is personal and relates to your own background.

An example of a good answer is:

‘I am motivated by being able to see the work I have created – it gives me a real sense of accomplishment. For example, when I was working as a journalist for the student newspaper at University, I would feel so proud when I could look at my work in the newspaper and see all my hard work come into physical form!’

This response answers the question and supplies evidence. It’s also important that your answer is relevant to the role you are applying for – so this answer would be relevant if you were applying for a journalistic role or a content creator. If, however, you were applying for a job in sales, you could answer the question by talking about how motivated you feel when you reach sales targets!

As we said, it’s vital that you prepare for each potential interview question before you’re actually in that interview room. Check out our other blog posts to ensure that you are thoroughly prepared for whatever question gets thrown at you!

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